Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does Saudi religious leader's condemnation of suicide attacks give us cause for hope?

A friend sent me this article, and asked what I thought. Does it indicate progress? A very good question, so here is the article, followed by my response:

Saudi religious leader condemns suicide attacks
Reuters via YahooNews — 12/12/2013

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, has condemned suicide bombings as grave crimes, reiterating his stance in unusually strong language. 
The Saudi cleric, whose views influence many Sunni Muslims respectful of the kingdom's strict version of Islam, denounced suicide attacks after al Qaeda's 2001 assault on U.S. cities, but his latest comments recast the message in sharp terms. 
"Killing oneself is a grave crime and a grave sin," Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by the pan-Arab, Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper on Thursday. "Those who kill themselves with explosives are criminals who are hastening their way to hell." 
Nearly two months ago, the mufti, who is appointed and paid by the Saudi government, urged Saudis not to travel to Syria to join Sunni rebels battling to unseat President Bashar al-Assad. 
Riyadh broadly backs the rebels, but with the rise of Islamist militant factions in Syria, it has grown increasingly worried that Saudis who fight for the anti-Assad cause might one day return home to wage a jihad in the kingdom. 
Saudis who had fought for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq staged a violent campaign in their homeland from 2003-06 in a failed attempt to bring down the ruling al-Saud dynasty. 
Although some prominent Saudi clerics spoke approvingly of suicide attacks on non-Muslims more than a decade ago, most have since argued against such actions. 
"Their (suicide bombers) hearts have veered away from the right path, their minds have been invaded by evil," Al Hayat quoted Al al-Sheikh as saying after what the daily described as a recent lecture in a Riyadh mosque. "They have been exploited in order to cause destruction to themselves and society." 
The mufti did not refer to suicide bombings in a specific country. Such attacks have occurred across the Middle East and beyond, nowadays most frequently in Iraq and Syria. 
Saudi Arabia's policy toward Syria reflects its regional power struggle with Shi'ite Iran, a strong ally of Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Sunni hardliners regard Shi'ites as heretics. 
(Writing by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Angus McDowall and Alistair Lyon)

My assessment on this report:

Of course, anytime we see a Muslim leader eschew violence of any kind, we should affirm such efforts. But we should not stop there. We are obliged to encourage them to do even more to reverse 1400 years of Muslim teaching on violent jihad and the virulent Islamic supremacism which demands that the whole world submit to Islam. We should insist that all representatives of Islamic jurisprudence, such as Al Azhar University in Cairo, recognized as the highest authority in Sunni Islam, explicitly denounce offensive jihad and repudiate it as no longer a central tenet in Islam and no longer an obligation, but rather as haram, forbidden. 

At the same time, we may exercise some healthy skepticism concerning the grand mufti's declaration, as there seems to be a specific cause for it. It is clear that the Saudis are primarily concerned about hardened jihadis returning from Syria to cause trouble in Saudi Arabia. So the Sheikh's immediate — if not only — purpose is to try to nip that specific threat in the bud, not to reverse an accepted practice in Islam which dates back to the time of Muhammad.

Indeed, Saudi leaders are already being threatened by suicide bombers, who are going to great lengths to kill their targets. For instance, in 2009 a Saudi prince narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber who concealed the bomb in his rectum. Another Muslim invention!

Alas, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much over specific announcements like this, as they clearly go against the prevailing trend in the Islamic world, and its lengthy history. After all, this is the same Saudi Grand Mufti who Calls for Destruction of all Churches on the Arabian Peninsula.

He also is behind this action, which directly violates any notion of religious freedom, except that of Islam: Saudi Arabia: Religious Police Confiscate Crosses from Christians.

Furthermore, the Saudis export the radical Wahhabi brand of Islam to our country and around the world. According to a recent article at CBN

It's been estimated that as many as 80 percent of American mosques have received funds from Saudi Arabia, where the official state religion is radical Wahhabi Islam.

This estimate comports with four separate studies over the last 14 years, each of which found that as many as 80% of mosques in the U.S. preach, teach or support jihad, sharia and the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution, and/or provide books and materials which do so. Again, most of this effort is funded directly by Saudi Arabia, with the approval if not outright direction of the Grand Mufti.

Opposing Sheikh Abdulaziz's condemnation of suicide attacks, from an equal if not higher authority (for jihadis), is Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is praised by Hamas for advocating jihad-martyrdom suicide bombings.

Another example of a dissenting position: "Pakistan Ulema Permits Suicide Attacks," by Abdul Haq Omari for Tolo News.

How could these Muslim authorities justify suicide attacks, if suicide is a "grave sin" which can send one to hell? Because of these verses in the Qur'an:

Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed... (Qur'an 9:111)

Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward. (Qur'an 4:74) 
And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah... (Qur'an 2:207)

And because of these hadiths[1]:

Bukhari (52:54) - The words of Muhammad: "I would love to be martyred in Al1ah's Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred."  This is why modern-day Jihadists often say that they love death.

Muslim (20:4678) - During the battle of Uhud, Muhammad was desperate to push men into battle.  He promised paradise for those who would martyr themselves, prompting a young man who was eating dates to throw them away and rush to his death.

Muslim (20:4655) - A man asks Muhammad "which of men is the best?"  Muhammad replies that it is the man who is always ready for battle and flies into it "seeking death at places where it can be expected."  (Tellingly perhaps, the next most saintly man in Islam is the hermit who lives in isolation "sparing men from his mischief.")

Muslim (20:4681) - "Surely, the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords."  After hearing Muhammad say that martyrdom leads to paradise, a young man pulls his sword and breaks the sheath (indicating that he has no intention of returning) then flings himself into battle until he is killed.

Muslim (20.4635) - "Nobody who enters Paradise will (ever like to) return to this world even if he were offered everything on the surface of the earth (as an inducement) except the martyr who will desire to return to this world and be killed ten times for the sake of the great honour that has been bestowed upon him."

Suicide conducted out of despair or some other motive is a grave sin, but a jihad attack in which a Muslim "kills and is killed" instead secures paradise for the mujahid. What would normally be a sin if one kills only oneself, becomes worthy of the highest praise from Allah and paradise in the hereafter for one who kills infidels to advance Islam, even if he dies in the process.

So, to close these considerations, the problem is not merely suicide terrorist attacks, but the doctrine of jihad and Islamic supremacism itself, which manifests in many forms, not all being violent. One may try to find solace in the Saudi Grand Mufti condemning suicide bombings, but until he condemns the hundreds of verses in the Qur'an which command jihad and the killing of infidels, we should not be tempted to drop our guard, but ought rather to raise it higher. 

Islam will never excise jihad out of its scriptures, teachings, and obligatory commands for its devotees. Jihad and the killing of infidels is commanded in the Qur'an (thought to be the literal words of Allah), exemplified by Muhammad (said in the Qur'an to be the "most beautiful pattern of conduct"), and codified in all schools of Islamic jurisprudence. See here for a more lengthy, systematic presentation on the doctrine of jihad.

[1] See The Religion of Peace, What does the Religion of Peace teach about Suicide Attacks (Martyrdom)?